I have been serving on a steering committee with KCPS and Local Charter Schools along with other community leaders, to work out a plan for a middle school south of Brush Creek that can benefit students in the area.
As a parent to two 6th-grade children who are leaving Border Star Elementary and moving into middle school in the district, I felt an urgency to work with this group because not everyone can get into the best school in the district (Lincoln College Prep) and many parents that I know have no idea what to do if they don’t get into that school.
My daughters have friends who have had to leave the 6th grade at Border Star to go to Crossroads Academy in the middle of the school year because a spot opened up and if they didn’t take it, they would not have anywhere to place their child the following year. Mostly this is due to the testing limitations and the requirement to have passed over 60% of your Math and English NWEA test scores.
Many more parents have considered leaving the district altogether and there is a growing amount of lower elementary parents that are starting to feel the pressure of making the decision to hope for the best and get into Lincoln, or move out of the district.
Virtually no one is considering the other two middle schools (Central and Northeast) both of which are just north of Brush Creek, saying they are too far away, there is too strong of a security presence or in an area that is too dangerous and even more have no idea they even exist as a possibility.
So far, I have attended 3 meetings, with another one planned for March 25th.
During our first meeting, I was educated on all of the schools in the area, including charters, and we talked a lot about enrollment numbers.
We also looked at the survey results from everyone who took that survey- Click Here to see the data.
We learned that overall, families with school-aged children have been moving out of the area at 4th, 5th and 6th grades.
Demographically, there are more white people moving into the district and African-Americans and Hispanic people are moving out.
The people who are moving in are typically young with no kids. Once they have kids, enrollment into Pre-K, K and Lower El is pretty high. My guess is that right about the time people start seeing their kids take the NWEA and other assessments, they start finding out that those test scores are going to affect which school they can get into when their child is in the 7th grade.
The district posted our first meeting’s presentation data- Click Here
You can see the group’s discussion notes- Click Here
When you read these notes, you will notice there is blue text included which points you to the 2nd week’s presentation for answers.
Our 2nd week looked at the additional numbers that we requested, and then we broke out into some discussion groups. We were asked to summarize, from all of the data that we had looked at, and figure out what the take-aways were and what we thought our current situation was, what our goal was (open the middle school south of Brush Creek) and what that looked like.
Many of us agreed that we wanted diversity, many of us agreed we wanted services and for the school to be robust (with athletics/team sports, arts, science, afterschool activities) and not just specialized in one area. For example, my family considered Paseo Academy for our children since they are very artistic and Lincoln College Prep has minimal art programs. But Paseo has no sports teams and their academics are struggling. Parents want a more rounded base for all schools, then they can choose more fairly for specialized programs such as robotics or fine art.
To see our 2nd meeting presentation- Click Here
For our 2nd Meeting discussion notes- Click Here
Those discussions include the fact that our population south of Brush Creek has declined overall, especially for people of color. There were mixed feelings about whether we have enough students to justify a new school. Many KCPS schools have perception issues and we had concerns that there were not enough robust middle school and/or high school programs to compete with schools in the suburbs.
For nformation from our 3rd meeting which was on March 4th- Click Here.
In that meeting, we went over the group discussion notes (from the 2nd meeting) and what we were trying to achieve with our group.
We talked about better programming for schools, proximity of the school (in the neighborhood south of Brush Creek), student diversity (what that actually means) and how to get better communication to the community to bring more awareness of KCPS events and programs.
We were also presented with some takeaways for enrollment data which showed that
a. Only 3 schools south of Brush Creek had white enrollment > 10% (Academie Lafayette, Border Star and Hale Cook) which is out of sync with the demographic data which shows 43% of the under 18 population as white.
b. Only 22% of charter schools south of Brush Creek had Hispanic enrollment > 5% vs. 50% of KCPS schools in the same area.
c. KCPS serves a significantly higher % of IEP students than charter schools.
Our next group discussion was to identify what “diversity” meant in relation to students in our schools. It’s not just about race, but about level of services, teachers, community, what happens outside of school, and should also look at IEP and how KCPS schools are not serving an evenly distributed amount of students with IEPs.
We also discussed ways to address this when we looked at overall demographics in the neighborhood.
Many of the people in our committee agreed that we needed to do a lot more work in our current schools and programs to address these issues before jumping into a whole new school.
We need to create more excitement for middle school and high school and to do that we have to make them more attractive to both parents with lower elementary children in the district as well as parents not yet invested in the district.
I actually proposed that KCPS have ambassadors that attend local meetings and events to get one on one with neighbors and let them know about all of the great things happening in our schools.
We need to form partnerships with our charter schools to provide more robust programming for all students.
If you have additional input that you, as a community member, would like to convey through me at these meetings, please send me a message and let me know.
Our next meeting is March 25th, but I won’t be in attendance. I can certainly send my concerns to the group and let you know what they discussed once I check in with them.
You can follow our progress completely through the school district’s website here- http://www.kcpublicschools.org/Page/5551
President – Waldo Tower Homes Association